Saturday's 83-77 loss at home to Boston University marked another example of Maryland starting slow, not taking care of the basketball, and allowing the opposing team to dictate the flow and tempo of the game. Only this time, rather than overcoming those factors, Maryland was unable to escape with a victory. The trend is one that is causing mounting frustration from what is an ever-growing group of fans who were told a return to the NCAA tournament was the goal for this season. But another loss, already Maryland's fifth of the season, is pushing that goal further and further out of reach and means the Terps will have to make up ground in ACC conference play if they want to set their sights on March Madness.
Following Maryland's loss, head coach Mark Turgeon was almost speechless when asked why his team again struggled against an opponent that Maryland should have defeated. When asked about being in this unfamiliar situation, Turgeon responded with "I've been trying to fix it. We are a little inconsistent. We go and lose at home and then play pretty well in the Paradise Jam and then lose a couple. I don't know. That's the perplexing thing. We can't score 77 at home and lose, so maybe it's on the defensive end. We've got to figure out if we can get a shot blocker in there, see if I can get our big guys playing better. We have no presence at the rim. Just defend better. We're trying to press, trying the zone, trying to do all of this stuff to kick-start us, but bottom line is you have to be able to guard a lot better. We're fouling too much, I've been saying that for a long time. I can keep going, but I don't want to keep you guys here all day. We're just trying to figure it out. Coaching staff, we just met. Maybe we are feeling too much pressure and just need to relax. We need to relax and have a little bit more fun, and see if we can play better that way."
When asked about his team's habit of starting games slow, Turgeon again seemed baffled about what was causing his team to play this way, saying "I don't know what it is, I really don't. We really talked about just doing a lot of things better and we didn't. Whether it's listening better in timeouts and huddles, and executing. You know we make the same mistake; we don't force guys to ball screens. We're trying to show on a ball screen but we're not forcing them, so the guy goes in and shoots up a layup. I bet I've said that 250 times this year. So ultimately it's on me; I've got to figure out how to get through to them.
"We worked hard on zone offense, we knew they were going to zone us and we worked hard on it. And I think when I watch the film, it's not going to be the zone offense, it's going to be turnovers and just our discipline on defense when the game was on the line."
When asked about what the main problem was during Saturday's loss, Evan Smotrycz said "To be honest, I really don't know. I have to watch the film. I was just asking Coach before I came in here. I really don't know."
Jake Layman and Dez Wells can't win games alone
Mark Turgeon discussed what he perceives as a lack of depth on his team, frustrated that other players haven't developed, which has prevented him from taking certain players out of the game when they make a mistake.
"Part of the problem is we don't have depth, guys know they're going to play through mistakes," Turgeon said. "Dez was begging to come out one time and I couldn't take him out. I looked down [the bench] and I said 'Dez, I can't take you out. There is no one to go in for you.' And I tried to build depth with Varun [Ram] and he didn't respond tonight either. That's part of the problem and that lies on me. Should've have had a few more players on board. I didn't and it won't happen again, as long as I can control it. But with that said I think our guys are trying hard, they're just not playing smart. And then when the game is on the line, we don't quite come up with that loose ball."
Turgeon also noted his team's inability to close out the game once they captured the lead, giving credit to BU's bench, who came through for BU on Saturday. "Their bench was good and was deeper than we were today. When the game was on the line and it's 58-all, we just didn't do what we had to do to win the game."
When asked about Jake Layman, Turgeon said Layman can be more aggressive, but the bigger issue is other players not stepping up and making shots when Layman is double-teamed.
"He has to be a little more aggressive...it wasn't a box and 1, but it was a zone but 2 or 3 guys always knew where Jake was," Turgeon said. "Other guys have got to play better. Other guys have to play better. If they're going to have two guys guarding Jake and we've got 4 on 3, we've got to play better. They just didn't guard certain guys and certain guys didn't step up. And it's that simple. We're sitting there trying to get him shots, literally every timeout, we're like 'try to get him a shot.' We got him a three in the first half, he did a ball screen and got two [more] in the first half, after timeouts and got him six points there."
Is there a magic bullet solution?
The short answer? No. Hopefully this team can continue to improve and correct some of these reoccurring mistakes. Hopefully Seth Allen's return will, if nothing else, give Turgeon an additional option off the bench as Allen gets back up to game speed, allowing Turgeon to put him in the game and to take certain players out of the game when appropriate.
This team appears to have the talent, but for whatever reason, they've been unresponsive to coaching in game situations this season. I think Turgeon is doing everything he can to get through to these guys and the guys are trying to execute, but he needs to find a way to turn his coaching words into actions on the court during a game.
"You know, we are what we are," Turgeon said when asked about his team frequently giving up big points to an opposing team's player. "We're trying. We're trying."
Hopefully he can come up with an answer or Maryland's last season in the ACC could be a very ugly one.